Politics & Policy

Team Obama Climbs into a Time Machine

Pro-Russian separatists near Donetsk. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
The “root cause” of these atrocities is militant Islam, not poverty.

To the long list of Team Obama’s jaw-dropping talents, we now can add time travel.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf was asked Sunday on MSNBC to respond to ISIS’s medieval beheading last weekend of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on a Libyan beach.

Harf jumped into a time machine and sped back to the days before former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani made a once-popular phrase unspeakable in polite company.

“We cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war,” Harf declared. “We need, in the longer term, medium to longer term, to go after the root causes that leads [sic] people to join these groups.” She added: “We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.”

Liberals once routinely battled the “root causes” of crime. Never mind that lawless thugs robbed, raped, and killed innocent people. In a sense, the Left argued, criminals were the real victims. Driven by urban poverty, racism, social injustice, bad parents, “underfunded” public assistance, and too few teddy bears, they simply had no choice but to practice deadly hooliganism.

“Job opportunities” will not prevent this.

Los Angeles–based New Wave band Oingo Boingo lampooned this mindset in its 1981 song “Only a Lad.”

Only a lad. He really couldn’t help it.

Only a lad. He didn’t want to do it.

Only a lad. He’s underprivileged and abused.

Perhaps a little bit confused?

When Giuliani entered City Hall on New Year’s Day 1994, he rejected this popular mindset. He never wept over brutal thugs. Instead, he had the NYPD arrest them for small violations, many of which were committed by the same hoodlums who perpetrated major offenses. Thanks to this “broken windows” policing, safety soon soared. New York magazine applauded the mayor and his police chief with this August 14, 1995, headline: “Giuliani and Bratton think they’ve finally found the root cause of crime: Criminals.”

The “root causes” excuse quickly joined forced busing and Communism on the ash heap of history.

Until Sunday.

It would be bad enough if Harf invoked “root causes” to cry for those who rip off convenience stores or even open fire on school yards. However, it is profoundly disturbing and downright dangerous for her to react thus to the Khmer Rouge–style barbarity of the vicious and rapidly expanding ISIS caliphate.

It takes a triple-distilled fifth of naïveté to believe that a desire to escape poverty propels those who sliced the heads from the shoulders of 21 Egyptian Christians. “They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians,” Pope Francis observed Monday. Meanwhile, Team Obama’s despicable insistence on calling the dead “Egyptian citizens” rather than Christians is like saying that Adolf Hitler killed six million Europeans in the Holocaust.

Did these bloodthirsty ISIS killers yell, “We want jobs!” before conducting these atrocities? Did they scream, “We can’t pay our bills!” before jamming blades into the jugulars of their victims? These tragically laughable questions apparently are discussed seriously by Team Obama.

This poverty rationale for radical jihad is such a thoroughly discredited cliché, it’s impossible to believe that it must be refuted anew.

Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was an heir to his father’s billion-dollar construction fortune. September 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta was the son of a Cairo attorney. Most of the young men in the Hamburg, Germany, cell that conducted the attack were prosperous exchange students. Al-Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian-born physician. Underwear bomber Abdul Mutallab’s father is the Alan Greenspan of Nigeria.

ISIS sells oil on the black market, earning an estimated $1 million to $3 million daily. It also swiped some $420 million from the vaults of Kurdistan’s central bank in Mosul. It reportedly is operating this year on a $2 billion budget, including a $250 million surplus. (How many American states can say that?) So much for ISIS enduring income inequality.

“The risk of terrorism is not significantly higher for poorer countries,” Harvard professor Alberto Abadie concluded in a 2004 study for the National Bureau of Economic Research. “A country’s level of political freedom better explains the presence of terrorism.”

Poverty exists worldwide. And yet, somehow, poor Paraguayans do not behead their neighbors. Poor Mexicans and Guatemalans do not burn people alive — in or out of cages. Instead, they scamper across America’s southern “border” and seek work. Poor Americans inhabit East L.A., Chicago’s South Side, the Bronx, and the Anacostia district in Washington, D.C. They do not explode themselves with bomb vests.

The sickening, mind-numbing mayhem that pours through our TV screens with a deeply depressing regularity has nothing to do with being overextended on one’s credit cards or feeling tired of eating Top Ramen. This genocidal carnage — plain and simple — is about militant Muslims violently imposing their Islamic “master faith” on “infidels” whom they consider inferior, just as the Nazis forced their Aryan “master race” on those they judged Untermenschen, or subhumans. Reports of ISIS’s recent burning of books that “promote infidelity” offer chilling echoes of the Third Reich.

As was Nazi Germany, ISIS’s evil, energetic killers are more serious than a thousand heart attacks. They mean it. They’re winning. And they’re headed this way.

If Team Obama has any interest in stopping them, they better fight back with something more lethal than job training and résumé tips.

— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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